K-12 Dealmaking: Amazon Conducts Sting Operation; GlassLab Games Shuts Down; Follett Acquires NextTier

Contributing Writer

In recent dealmaking news, Follett acquires NextTier Education; Glose raises funds to expand into the education market; Accelerate Learning gains significant new investors; Grand Canyon Education seeks to acquire Orbis Education Services; GlassLab Games, which was started by a multi-million-dollar grant from the Gates and MacArthur foundations, shuts down; and Amazon conducts a sting operation on booksellers pedaling counterfeit textbooks.

Follett Acquires NextTier Education     

Education company Follett announced this month that it has acquired NextTier Education, a cloud-based software platform that provides counselors, students, and parents with guidance and information to help students get access to higher education. 

Last year, Follett formed an exclusive partnership with Chicago-based NextTier to sell its college and career readiness software to public, private, and international school districts and schools.

NextTier is a “perfect fit for Follett” because it provides a bridge between the company’s K-12, higher education, and public library businesses, said Nader Qaimari, president of Follett School Solutions. Follett is the largest provider of educational materials and technology solutions to preK-12 libraries, classrooms, learning centers, and school districts in the United States, and a major supplier to educational institutions worldwide.

Qaimari said Follett will integrate the NextTier platform with its Aspen student information system and eventually with its market-leading Destiny solution.

“We also will build out NextTier into a product for public libraries so that all kids have access to scholarships, test preparation, and career exploration,” Qaimari said.

With its web- and mobile-based platform, NextTier delivers information on all two-and four-year colleges. In addition, it provides each student with a college application plan, including a list of every school’s required tasks, step-by-step guidance, and deadlines throughout the process. NextTier also features a database with more than 20,000 scholarships and grants to match students with the right financial support opportunities.

The NextTier acquisition is the latest for Follett, which in July announced it had acquired Fishtree, a leading adaptive learning platform.

Glose Raises 3 Million Euros, Expands to Education Market

Glose SAS, the company behind the social and collaborative reading platform Glose, announced that it raised enough money to expand its research and development efforts and launch Glose Education, a new reading solution for students and teachers.

The expansion funding comes from a 3 million Euro round of financing from European investors, such as OneRagTime, Expon Capital, Kima Ventures, BPI France, and business angel investors Sébastien Breteau of The Breteau Foundation, Patrick Bertrand of Cegid/Holnest, and Julien Codorniou of Facebook.

Launched in 2014, Glose is a digital reading product that makes reading social and collaborative on all types of devices.

The company aims to shape the future of reading for a new generation of students. To achieve that goal, the startup uses a mix of  digital approaches to improve reading (social networks, customization, big data, machine learning) and has developed a technology that turns text into an interactive experience.

Glose’s flagship app contains more than one million digital books from 800 partnering editors. The company says it has 600,000 users.

This year, the company plans to launch Glose Education, an adaptive learning and reading platform that offers access to textual content, creation of reading groups, collaborative reading, personalization, and individual monitoring.

Ed-Tech Investors Want to Expand PreK-12 Science Curriculum

Accelerate Learning, a global provider of preK-12 science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education products and services, has received a new investment from The Carlyle Group and Quad Partners, making Carlyle its new majority owner.

Early investors Rice Management Company and Owl Ventures will remain investors, according to a press release. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Accelerate Learning, which started at Rice University in 2013, has grown from its first product, STEMscopes, to a brand that now offers a variety of curriculum and professional development solutions for Pre-K-12 grades.

According to the company–which is based in Houston and New York City–Accelerate Learning is used by more than four million students and 200,000 teachers across more than 2,380 districts in every state.

Will Darman, Carlyle Managing Director, and Lincoln Frank, Quad Managing Partner, said they “look forward to supporting the company’s expansion and helping grow its innovative offerings as it continues to improve learning outcomes for students globally.”

Grand Acquisition for Workforce Development

Grand Canyon Education, a publicly traded company serving colleges and universities, will acquire Orbis Education Services, an education services company that supports health care education programs at universities across the country.

The deal was made for $362 million in cash. It is expected to close during the first quarter of 2019.

The acquisition combines the strengths of two of the nation’s most innovative service providers in higher education in an effort to better address a nationwide shortage in licensed healthcare professionals, according to a news release.

“There is a significant shortage of healthcare professionals in this country due to the aging baby boomer population and impending retirements of many in the nursing profession,” said Brian Mueller, CEO of Grand Canyon Education.

According to Mueller, many universities are forced to turn away qualified applicants for health care programs due to budget constraints, a shortage of faculty, and an insufficient amount of clinical sites and classrooms.

Orbis, founded in 2003, has been working to solve this problem by creating partnerships between academic institutions and employers. Its hybrid learning model incorporates online coursework, off-campus laboratory facilities where students can practice clinical skills, and guaranteed clinical placements with healthcare partners.

The company currently provides online program management services for 17 accredited U.S. universities. Its services range from building and staffing learning programs to online dashboards for curriculum.

Educational Gaming Portal Shuts Down, Offers Free Code

One of the most highly funded efforts to create popular educational games to support both learning and formative assessment has shuttered its online doors. But its games aren’t going away.

GlassLab Games was launched in 2012 with a three-year, $10.2 million grant from the Gates Foundation and MacArthur Foundation. It aimed to create and market online educational games that were just as fun as mainstream games.

At its peak, the nonprofit company employed 25 full-time staff members, bringing together educators, game developers, psychometricians, and researchers. The group partnered with research firms such as ETS and SRI International.

However, even though GlassLab succeeded in creating and implementing a new approach to game-based assessments, it was not able to “crack the revenue challenge that has befuddled so many in the educational technology sector,” said Connie Yowell, CEO of the connected learning ecosystem LRNG, which hopes to continue the mission and vision of GlassLab. Yowell’s statement is linked from the now-shuttered GlassLab Web site.

Since the nonprofit’s assets were philanthropically funded and developed by a community of designers, teachers, and youths, Yowell said the company would open the source code for many of its assets on Github.

“Please do take a look at these assets and make the most of them,” Yowell said in the statement. “We hope the assets of GlassLab Games may be of value and useful to this extraordinary community.”

Amazon Fights Textbook Counterfeiting in Sting Operation

Amazon has suspended the accounts of at least 20 booksellers allegedly selling counterfeit books, which the company discovered in a recent online sting operation.

“These counterfeit books were caught in a test buy program we operate, which is just one component of our aggressive anti-counterfeiting efforts. The publishers for these books confirmed that these particular books were counterfeit so we took swift action to protect our customers,” an Amazon spokesman told The Bookseller. The Amazon sting operation was first reported by Publishers Launch.

Cengage, Elsevier, Macmillan Learning, McGraw-Hill Education and Pearson have collaborated on a website, stopcounterfeitbooks.com, intended to raise awareness of the problem of counterfeiting that they say is “significantly” contributing to the decline of textbook revenues.

“Counterfeit textbooks are a substantial problem in the educational marketplace, burdening students with inferior products; exposing distributors to legal liability and unsaleable inventory; and depriving authors and publishers of the funds necessary to reinvest in new educational content,” the web site says.

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